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Scowling, she laid her hand against the yellowing flash sheets pasted on the studio wall, her fingers tracing brightly colored tribal symbols, yin yangs, and Celtic knot work set against the tropical orange paint. Soulless designs with little understanding of the cultures they depicted. She crossed her arms. Only the gods knew how lost these languages were to mortals whose feet passed so quickly across this earth. How different the world seemed these thousand years or so, but for her, so little had changed.

"Coffee, Seph?"

She glanced at the styrofoam cup of instant coffee and powdered creamer that Nick Malone held out to her. Everything designed to be disposable. With a hundred coffee vendors in this town selling fresh roast, Nick was drinking instant. She barely smelled the coffee above the studio's antiseptic tinge. But she couldn't fault the man. He was overworked and much too busy to run down the street for fresh coffee. The impatience of mortals was tiring. Behind her, the autoclave hissed its warm breath through the room. She found its rhythmic sounds comforting and she liked making an effort to cleanse and reuse the old.

"No, thank you," she answered with a brief smile, her voice low and sleepy. "I can't drink that powdered swill."

Nick owned the studio and let her work for him every summer. His chestnut hair was long and tied in a ponytail at his nape. One of his ears was pierced four times with silver studs. He wore a yellow t-shirt and both of his lanky, upper arms were sleeved in intricate tribal symbols drawn in bold primary colors. He was wiry and tall, his green eyes bright. He stood beside her and sipped from the cup. She'd known Nick almost ten years now. Despite his mortal flaws, he was wise and she trusted him.

"You'll be leaving soon, won't you?"

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